Leonard Cohen calls in the synagogue cantor

Leonard Cohen calls in the synagogue cantor


norman lebrecht

September 21, 2016

The balladeer, conspicuously frail and 82 today, has heen working with the cantor and chorus of Montreal’s Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue for the opening track of his new single, You Want it Darker, also out today.

The refrain he sings is: ‘Hineni Hineni; I’m ready, my Lord.’

Make of that what you will.

Canton Gideon Zelermyer says: ‘Hineni literally means here I am. I’m too young to know everything about Leonard, but I know he does not use words without purpose.

‘Hineni has one major reference back to the Old Testament, relating to Abraham in God preventing him from sacrificing his son Isaac. But in this case, I think hineni is more a reference to Leonard as someone trying to come to an understanding with God, someone reckoning with final tallies in the Book of Life: Here I am — I am ready.’

You can listen to the track here.


The melody has distinct resonances of Ashkenazi High Holidays worship.


  • Jackie says:

    Happy Birthday Leonard. Not much in the news about your special day today…..but please find the strength to keep singing in The Tower of Song.

  • Mikey says:

    HA! Funny to see that place in the news. I was the music director for the youth theatre there for three years. A wonderful place full of good people. I thoroughly enjoyed those three years.

  • Kilian Metcalf says:

    I think of the one major reference to hineni in the Hebrew Bible is the story of Samuel, who is told to respond with ‘Hineni’ to the voice of God calling him in the night.